GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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Paul is back for another look at the weekend ahead. Check out his tips and see if yours will match up...
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Check out the Round 18 NRL Teamlists HERE.
Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 18:
Friday night at Brooky where the Tigers have not won in more than a decade. The home side will be keen to respond to last week's shock loss to Des Hasler and the Bulldogs. And they'll be keen to do this with an aggression that will not only look like the Manly we've grown to hate, but will atone for the treatment they received from the ‘dogs pack last Friday night. Forwards never forget. This aggression should come from Brenton Lawrence first and Justin Horo second.
The Tigers may match this in the opening 20 minutes and when they do, you'll have your match of the round. Just another sign that today's NRL players continue to deliver whilst begging for more time off. Amazing. Speaking of amazing, Jamie Lyon plays his 250th first grade game and league's gentleman Dene Halatau plays his 200th. Fantastic. The Tigers will bounce back well from last week's disappointment at Leichhardt but it won't be enough.
Keep an eye on all the news sources you can to see if Jarryd Hayne is on the plane to Auckland for this match - because that could be the difference between the Warriors winning by 50 or 15. Chris Sandow has been named at fullback for this match and if he plays there, you won't want to miss the treatment he gets from Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend and the Warriors kick chase. It might be hilarious, or it might put young Chrissy Sandow in hospital.
Who's in charge of Parramatta's travel insurance policy? Is there a section that prohibits putting yourself in harm's way? In Manu Vatuvei's way? In Konrad Hurrell's way? Either way, the Warriors have only lost 2 matches since mid-April and the Eels have an abysmal defensive record away from Pirtek Stadium. That'll do. Some big bodies up front in this match so tune in at 5.30pm Sydney time for a Saturday night smash up.
Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Saturday 7:30pm at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday evening from AAMI Park in Melbourne as the third placed Bulldogs hit the road to face the eighth placed Storm. Plenty of blokes backing up from Wednesday night here so once again, stay tuned to the LU website or twitter page to keep updated. If everyone plays, this could be a beauty with the Storm still hoping to spark their season; and they usually do soon after rep season is finished. The Bulldogs will have plenty to say about this.
They'll start with Tony Williams running very direct lines at Ben Roberts and Ben Hampton, no matter where Melbourne are hiding them in defence. Combine this with the visitors forwards aiming up, as they often do, to keep bending the line. Melbourne will win the battle for field position if they can control Canterbury's monster pack, but Des Hasler has a history of beating Craig Bellamy coached teams and he can out think the wrestle better than most. Dogs win for the first time ever at AAMI.
My tip: Bulldogs 20-16
If you thought the crowd at Cbus Super Stadium against the Storm was anaemic, have a crack at the Robina faithful turning up in their droves on Sunday afternoon for this one. Yes, ladies and gentleman, it's the Raiders coming to town and they are on a 4 match losing streak; with the Titans winners of 1 from their past 7; and rain predicted. But don't be fooled by the ever increasing pile of evidence to suggest this won't be entertaining.
The Titans were good enough to beat South Sydney last week and with Daniel Mortimer playing his third game for the home side, cohesion might be improving. If so, you'll see a rejuvenated Albert Kelly off the bench, a fired up forward pack and some very fast blokes out wide. David Mead and Kevin Gordon might finally stop begging for some footy while James Roberts is enjoying his longest ever stint in first grade. This kid is starting to live up to the billing.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v Newcastle Knights
Sunday 3:00pm at Remondis Stadium, Woolooware
If you thought Sunday's fixture card couldn't get any better than the 12th placed Titans hosting the 15th placed Raiders, think again. Round two of this festival of footy has the 16th placed Sharks up against the 14th placed Knights. We cannot be in any doubt who is in charge of Rugby League now, can we? The broadcasters are so desperate to keep people away from games and tuning into their TVs, it's becoming insulting.
Last week, the Sharks celebrated like a team who'd been through the wars, and by gum, they have. Here is a chance to reward their small army of supporters with a win at home for the first time since round 8 and notch up an improbable 3 game winning streak. The Knights are in a similar boat and fighting just as hard to stay afloat and it's this gumption that will get them home. The Mullen/Gidley combination should be too good.
My tip: Knights 18-12
Round 18 comes to a close with Monday night football from Sportingbet Stadium and this should be a beauty. The Panthers are the talk of the town and are sitting atop the ladder. They've won 6 from their past 7 and have uncovered a few footballers headed for stardom. The Broncos, meanwhile, have become the road warriors of the NRL. They are undefeated in NSW this year and will have the added motivation of their unbelievable last start loss to the Sharks. They'll be ready.
A huge loss for the home side with Peter Wallace out injured and the Panthers' attack will suffer. They've benefited from his leadership and kick chase so now, they'll be hoping the spark provided by his replacement in the halves, Tyrone Peachey, will be enough. It won't. I'll go the upset here and back the Broncos to enjoy the 17 days' rest between matches, plus the 5 days' rest for their origin stars. Ben Hunt back to his best.